sgcarney Scott Carney

Scott Carney is an investigative journalist and anthropologist whose stories blend narrative non-fiction with ethnography. He has been a contributing editor at Wired and his work also appears in Mother Jones, Foreign Policy, Playboy, Details, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. He regularly appears on variety of radio and television stations from NPR to National Geographic TV and has had academic work published in Nature and SAIS Journal. In 2010 he won the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for the story “Meet the Parents” which tracked an international kidnapping-to-adoption ring. His first book, The Red Market: On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers and Child Traffickers, was published by William Morrow in 2011 and won the 2012 Clarion Award for best non-fiction book. He first traveled to India while he was a student at Kenyon College in 1998 and spent six years living there. Along the way, he learned Hindi and twice drove a motorcycle across the country. In 2004 he received a MA in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Boulder, CO.

All articles by sgcarney

 

Listen to the “What Doesn’t Kill Us” audiobook

What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength is officially out as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon and iBooks. It has been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and in Men’s Journal and debuted at the #112 spot on Amazon in January 2017.  I recorded the audiobook myself with the help of Marcello Lessa, one of the top audio engineers in the Denver area.  It runs just shy of 10 hours and is exactly the sort of inspiration that you need to reach your highest potential.  Come with me on an evolutionary journey to understand how the comforts of the modern age are making us weak, and what we can do to get a little of our ancestral strength back. Download your copy today: Audible iBooks Amazon Here is what some of the early reviewers are saying: Climbing a mountain in nothing but a pair of shorts seems idiotic to most, but for Wim Hof and his companions, it’s just another day. When investigative journalist and anthropologist Carney heard about Hof’s mind boggling methods and claims that he could “hack” the human body, he knew he had to venture to Poland to expose this fraud. But in just a few days, Hof changed Carney’s mind, and so began a friendship and a new adventure. Carney now chronicles his journey to push himself mentally and physically using Wim Hof’s method of cold exposure, breath-holding, and meditation to tap into our primal selves. Our ancestors survived harsh conditions without modern technology, while we live in comfortable bubbles with little to struggle against and wonder how they survived.The question is, What happens when we push our bodies to the limit? Carney calls on evolutionary biology and other modern scientific disciplines to explore and explain Hof’s...
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Announcing the What Doesn’t Kill Us Trailer

Watch what my journey as I attempt to find the limits of human endurance. ...
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If you’re willing to buy a kidney, you’re willing to exploit the poor

The Washington Post inquires into the ethics behind paying for organs. I weigh in. ...
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TEDx-Boulder – Body, Mind and Spirit

What are people supposed to do with the rest of their time on earth once they’ve gained that ultimate knowledge?...
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Countdown to Revolution: WordRates to launch Oct 19th

The journalism business is about to change forever. On October 19th at 8:00 a.m. WordRates.com will bring transparency to the publishing world by allowing freelance journalists to compare rates between publications, review contracts and rate editors, magazines and websites. Called “a Yelp! for journalists,” WordRates will give writers a crowdsourced periscope into the industry in order to help them better target their stories to publications and negotiate competitive rates for their work. In addition to the ratings database, WordRates will also launch “PitchLab,” which uses a revamped literary agency model to represent feature writers to magazines. PitchLab will pair writers and their story ideas with “mentors” who will sell those stories to mainstream magazines. The mentor team features award-winning writers from The New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, Rolling Stone, and Bloomberg-BusinessWeek, including Trevor Aaronson, Vince Beiser, Erin Biba, Charles Graeber, Jonathan Green, Jon Lackman, Robert Levine, Jason Miklian, Luke O’Brien, Neal Pollack, Paul Tullis, Joel Warner WordRates was made possible after a successful Kickstarter campaign in May raised almost $10,000 from 246 freelance journalists around the world. These journalists, and others like them, have noticed that for the last 20 years pay to freelance writers has remained stagnant. Despite the internet’s promise to level the playing field for content, and potentially allow anyone a chance to find an audience for their work, the profits, by-and-large, have stayed within the large publishing houses. According to their own figures, magazine publishers like Conde Nast and Wenner Media pay less than 2% of the revenue they make from advertising to their writers. Meanwhile, publishing contracts have gotten worse and made it increasingly difficult for writers to get fair terms on the film rights, reprints, translations and book deals that have long been important revenue streams for creative professionals. WordRates...
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One Week to WordRates!

After almost five months of development after a successful Kickstarter campaign WordRates & PitchLab will go live on September 9th, 2015...
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A Look Behind the Scenes at WordRates

Come take a look at how the website is coming together and meet the team that will make it happen....
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Our Collective Problem

In 1994 for the Federal Trade Commission made it illegal for freelancers to unionize. . . but that doesn’t mean we can’t fight back....
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Should Writers Dream of Being Middle Class?

I have the audacity to believe that writers should be able to make a middle class living. I began writing about the difficulties that writers have negotiating for the value of their work amidst increasingly hostile market conditions back in January. I asked “How much are words worth?” and since then I’ve received almost a hundred emails from writers around the country who are fed up with their inability to make a living off. This in part explains why the first three days of the Kickstarter campaign to create a new platform for writers to share market information and pitch stories have been so amazing.  As of right now when I’m typing this blog post Wordrates and Pitch Lab is 29% funded! I’m incredibly grateful to the community of writers and journalists out there who see this as a worthwhile project, and your continuing efforts to get the word out about it.  Even so, there is still a lot of work left to do to get over the finish line. We just need $4,590 more so that I can hire a web designer to start banging out the code.  However, since Kickstarter is all-or-nothing funding, if I’m even one dollar short the campaign will fail and all the pledges will go unfulfilled. So, If you haven’t pledged yet, please consider it. Even a modest donation of $25 will get you a six months of membership and access to editorial contact information and inside market data.  There are a lot of other cool rewards, too.  If you have already pledged there are other things you can do to help out. Fundraising campaigns like these live and die by social media so please keep tweeting and posting updates on Facebook.  Post about it on Reddit (r/writing might be a good place), Digg and get your local writers...
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Help Kickstart Wordrates & Pitchlab

  I am proud to announce that this morning I’m going to do more than just write about the problems in the publishing industry. I’m going to do something about them. I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign that I hope will shift the ways that writers think about and market their work. I’m only asking for enough money to design the website. Please share this widely and lets make some great journalism together. Here’s a link to the project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/767033302/wordrates-and-pitchlab-fixing-journalism-since-mid   The Problem: Freelance journalism is dying. For the last 20 years, word rates have stagnated. Every year publishers grab more reprint, book and film rights and it is harder than it ever has been to make a living as an independent journalist. This is an important problem that deeply impacts the quality of the news you read. According to a survey by ProjectWord this year, almost half of stories that journalists thought were important to produce were never written because of lack of funding. Along with declining payments, boilerplate contracts weaken copyright and take away valuable ancillary revenue streams. The dirty secret of the publishing business is that there is still a lot of money in the media. It’s just that writers aren’t getting any of it. Publishing empires like Conde Nast pay less than 1% of their gross revenue to writers and instead buy billions of dollars worth of real estate in Manhattan. VICE, a company that has been valued as high as $2.5 billion, pays a mere $250 for a reported piece. And let’s not forget that its CEO was willing to blow $300,000 on a dinnerwith 30 of his closest friends. Antitrust laws make it illegal for freelancers to unionize so the only practical solution is to rely on the principles of the free market. It is time for a...
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For the Safety of Journalists

A few months ago the Dart Center for Trauma and Journalism gathered together some of the top media organizations in the world and hashed out principles for ethical conduct for freelancers and publications that operate in conflict zones. The guidelines are not legally binding, but they are an important first step in reforming the often-broken relationship between publications, journalists and the stories they both want to get into print. As I’ve written over the last year, bad contracts, kill fees and uncertain payments often push freelance writers to take additional risks in conflict zones that can either result in bad reporting, or sometimes even a journalist’s life. The guidelines issue recommendations for medical training, protective gear, risk assessment as well as transparent payment policies, and credit. They also agree that publications should be responsible for ransom and evacuation of freelancers in the same way that they would be for their own employees. These guidelines are a huge step forward from the previous era where news organizations might simply disavow a freelance writer or photographer who got in trouble while on assignment. So far there are 60 signatories to the document, but there are still a few notable exceptions that routinely have freelance writers operating in potentially dangerous areas. It’s time to urge The New York Times, National Public Radio, Conde Nast, Wenner Media, Atlantic Media, and American Public Media to stand up for the safety of the the people who put their lives in their name. Like many non-binding documents, only time will tell if they signatories are ready to make this more than an on-paper commitment, but something they will act on during a crisis.  I have hope that they will. I’ll post the complete guidelines and signatories below. Please share them....
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Why “Cult” is the Wrong Word

Reviewers have asked me to call Diamond Mountain a Cult. I think that is a bad idea. ...
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Tantric Obsession

Neuroscientist David Vago and I discuss spiritual sickness at the Rubin Museum. ...
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The Enlightenment Trap

The price for inner peace is sometimes paid in blood. ...
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Editors weigh in on market pitching

A few weeks ago I posted about the relative merits of market versus silo pitching and the post kicked up a lot of conversation around the internet. Yesterday Lesley Evans Ogden reached out to a few editors to see what they thought of the practice. Her piece “Simultaneous Pitching: Views from the Other Side of the Desk” has responses from seven editors, including one that I have known for four or five years (who somehow got my name wrong). Of course, there’s no reason for editors to like the fact that they might have to compete for particular ideas. So I was happily surprised to see how open most of them were to the fact that the notion that simultaneous pitching is just a fact of the industry. While one or two bristled at the idea that not every pitch they receive might be truly exclusive, they also grudgingly admitted that it could take weeks to even read an idea. One wrote  that the ten minutes that they have to dedicate to reading a pitch can be a burden to an already packed work day. This of course assumes that it isn’t a burden to freelancer to wait in some sort of queue, possibly weeks, for an up or down answer that should only take minutes. What happens to that freelancer if the editor says no? There are only 52 weeks in a year, how many chances can an idea get at bat before it is stale? All the editors did seem to agree that even if a pitch does get accepted into a magazine, it usually changes as writer and editor work together. And, from this perspective, you could say that there is no such thing as multi-pitching, anyway, since the final product will always adapt to the specific publication. Tracy Hyatt, Editor, WestworldBC Magazine, notes: “Back...
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An (almost) Deadly Journey on Diamond Mountain

How I almost died searching for the spot where Ian Thorson met his end. ...
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Inside Pacific Standard Interview where I swear like a sailor

apparently if you ask me about the freelance business I can’t help but to rely on profanity....
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Fragile Freelancers and the Fate of Journalism

Project Word exposes the declining fate of freelancers in epic new survey...
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Why ISIS probably isn’t selling organs

Don’t believe the hype. ISIS lacks the infrastructure to be successful in the organ business....
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What Hollywood can teach Magazine Writers

How Hollywood screenwriters make six figures by giving studios the option to see their work before anyone else....
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Brian Williams and the Myth of the Intrepid TV Journalist

If the media aims to crucify Williams they should also acknowledge that much of what the see on TV isn’t exactly true, either. ...
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How kill fees ruin writers, hurt magazines and destroy journalism

Kill fees expose publications to libel suits and destroy the financial security of writers. The practice needs to end. ...
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Are you Pitching to a Silo or to a Market?

Take your work out to the market. It’s not personal. It’s business....
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The case for $20 per word

Call me crazy. Then check my math. ...
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Crowdsourcing Journalism Rates

Join the effort to figure out how much writing in America is really worth....
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How much are words worth?

The total market for long form journalism in major magazines in America is approximately $3.6 million. This needs to change. ...
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The Contract that Kills Journalism

I’m not sure when it started, but there’s a dangerous trend in the publishing industry to leech value from a writer’s work and make it almost impossible to earn a real living off of journalism.  Yes, yes, we all know that media revenues are declining and even 100 year-old publications like The New Republic are teetering on the verge of extinction. For freelance journalists this has meant a general decline in word rates from a high in 1999 of $5/word at the top publications to as a low as $0.50/word at once-mighty institutions. Some publications now only pay their writers base on per-click, which as the venerable Erin Biba once said “is bullshit“. But, I’m not writing to lament the decline of freelance revenues. I’m writing about something far more sinister: the way that publications today often demand that writers not only accept far less pay than they have received in the past, but also forfeit any rights over the work that they produce. While most new writers don’t think about much more than the pay they get for their words, a good story can go on to have a long life in several different mediums. The most lucrative of which are book, movie and TV deals. In those cases a writer could stand to make upwards of six figures for the research and narrative work that they put in up front.  Indeed, many of the best movies of the last ten years started out as magazine stories (Argo, Hurt Locker, Erin Brockovich, Adaptation, Coyote Ugly, Boogie Nights, Big Love to name just a few). Late last month I got ahold of Newsweek’s standard contract that one of my correspondents sent me. Hidden on the second page was this clause:...
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National Novel Writing Month

I don’t write novels, but this morning I got a message from the website Webucator asking me for my thoughts on National Novel Writing Month.In particular they wanted to know what it means to write for a living.  Regular readers will remember that I recently published a short ebook on the freelance writing career path called The Quick and Dirty Guide to Freelance Writing about how to attain that elusive dream of quitting your day job and working for yourself. So, perhaps, they wondered, I could share a few thoughts on how to write for a living. What were your goals when you started writing? Sometimes I feel like I didn’t choose to be a writer, but that writing chose me.I’d failed or been fired from every other job I’d tried over the years and writing was the only thing that I was ever good at. Part of the problem, of course, is that I have an almost adolescent rejection of authority and working on other people’s projects always seemed less fulfilling than working on my own things. I also have a predilection for exploration and adventure. Writing has given me an excuse to spend months at a time pursuing strange and unusual subjects and call it a career.  As I mention in the book, my first real assignment came after I’d dropped out of graduate school and enrolled in a clinical trial for the erectile dysfunction drug Levitra. I thought that it was hilarious that I was going to be stuck in a room with 30 other dudes on penis-poppers and decided to write to Nerve.com to see if they wanted a feature on the subject. They did, and a writing career was born....
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The Quick and Dirty Guide to Freelance Writing

Yes! It’s possible to get paid for your writing. Get a copy of the free eBook today! ...
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Unintended Consequences

Sometimes the stories that I write don’t end up making the world a better place. ...
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The Risks of Freelance Reporting

This morning jihadists belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) beheaded Steven Sotloff.  Two weeks ago the same British-accented militant murdered James Foley. Both events were recorded on tape and sent out to the mass media as part of an ongoing propaganda war against the West’s military intervention in the Middle East. Both Sotloff and Foley were freelance journalists who traveled to Syria to cover the crumbling Asad regime. Their deaths, while tragic beyond belief, also highlight a major problem with the way that mainstream publications choose to cover the war at the expense of their people in the field. Neither Foley nor Sotloff were household names. They submitted their work to lesser-known news outlets like the Global Post and Foreign Policy. They traveled abroad on shoestring budgets–like I have many times before–and embedded themselves in the heart of the conflict. They made very little money when they sold their stories and photographs to the media, and it seems that the only reason they were there was to raise awareness of the horrible on-going violent conflagrations in the Middle East that have taken far too many lives already. Reporter’s lives are often at risk in the field, but in the last decade freelancers have borne the brunt of the consequences. Even though news budgets have contracted, news organizations are still thirsty for front line coverage. Since they decline to send their own people they depend primarily on journalists like Sotloff and Foley to get to the front lines no matter what risks they might take along the way.  Publications see this as an easy way to cut costs. There are certainly many writers brave or stupid enough to put themselves at the heart of a conflict, but media companies who hire freelancers balk whenever one of their temporary correspondents asks for insurance, or logistical support...
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Islamic Anti-christ is Trending. Again.

How Islamic fundamentalists and ISIS have used a photo I took in 2006 to spread a violent gospel....
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Launching A New Platform

The new website has articles, books, a blog, a writing clinic and more blood sweat and tears than an Amish barn-raising....
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KPCC’s Alex Cohen Interviews Carney about Diamond Mountain

Last year, 38-year-old Ian Thorson died of apparent dehydration in a cave in southeastern Arizona. Earlier that year, he and his wife Christie McNally travelled to Arizona’s Diamond Mountain to pursue Buddhist perfection....
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Talking About Red Markets

Lectures in Chicago and DC help frame the debate for the future of transplant tourism....
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Businessweek Book Review

the mostly legal and sometimes creepy multibillion-dollar business of buying and selling the stuff of human life, including organs, bones, embryos, and blood....
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The Current talks Red Markets

We take you inside the world of organ brokers, bone thieves and blood farmers as they supply the global trade in human body parts. ...
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Tavis Smiley and The Red Market

Talking child trafficking and black market organs on PBS’s best talkshow. ...
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New York Times Review

Star writer for the times, Michiko Kakutani, gives “The Red Market” a rave review. Saying: “Mr. Carney writes with considerable narrative verve”...
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